The Food-Mood-Body Connection: Nutrition-Based Approaches to Mental Health and Physical Wellbeing

The Food-Mood-Body Connection: Nutrition-Based Approaches to Mental Health and Physical Wellbeing

by Gary Null

More than fifty physicians describe their clinical experience treating maladies ranging from alcoholism to depression, from yeast overgrowth (candidiasis) to PMS. In case after case, these doctors found, mental and physical disorders were associated with vitamin deficiencies, environmental toxins, hormonal imbalances, food allergies, or an inability to absorb


More than fifty physicians describe their clinical experience treating maladies ranging from alcoholism to depression, from yeast overgrowth (candidiasis) to PMS. In case after case, these doctors found, mental and physical disorders were associated with vitamin deficiencies, environmental toxins, hormonal imbalances, food allergies, or an inability to absorb certain nutrients. Often, problems that had resisted all other treatments responded to nutrition-based approaches, sometimes combined with lifestyle changes.
The Food-Mood-Body Connection presents treatments that address the underlying biochemical imbalances which cause or contribute to conditions such as: aggressive behavior, alcoholism, allergies, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, dementia, depression, eating disorders, fatigue, hypoglycemia, insomnia, learning disabilities, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PMS, schizophrenia, thyroid disorders...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The host of the syndicated daily health radio program Natural Living with Gary Null here takes on the current epidemic of mental-health problems in the U.S. and shows that many of these disorders can be remedied more effectively, faster and much less expensively with natural means than with traditional approaches. Null (Gary Null's Ultimate Anti-Aging Program), a longtime champion of alternative health care, makes a good case for looking at the nutritional and environmental factors that may be causing such chronic conditions as depression, alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia and eating disorders. Tapping more than 50 physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and holistic doctors, Null presents research, case studies and opinions that support his claim that most mental and emotional conditions can be helped, and often cured, by treating biochemical imbalances. For those who have had lifelong battles with depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia and been given little hope for recovery, the news that, for example, administration of liquid zinc has cured people of anorexia within a few months will be most welcome. Null reports that more than 500,000 children are on antidepressants and that rates of schizophrenia are rising; his book is sure to find a big audience among those (including families) affected by these conditions. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
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6.17(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


A Personal Account of Alcoholism: "Bob"

I am a recovered alcoholic. It's been about seven years that I've been off alcohol. At first, I ate a lot of sugar in cakes and things like that. One of the psychological-emotional components of my behavior was that I always had a very difficult time getting started in the morning. The first thing I would think about when I got up was what I was going to eat, which usually included cereal with sugar, a pastry, and sugar-laden coffee. There has been a slow, progressive bettering of my diet, but there has still always been the sugar craving. Sometimes I would be able to get away from it for a week or two weeks, but it would always creep back in.

Recently, I completed a seven-day fast and a colonic cleansing and I found that after that cleansing process the craving pretty much disappeared. Also, I wake up in the morning feeling rather alert, and I don't have this compulsion to eat sweets. I think that because I am staying away from sugar, I generally am having better days psychologically.

We have come a long way from the idea that addicts are morally reprehensible beings who could stop whatever it is they're doing if they only wanted to enough. The medical community, as well as the homeopathic world, now understands that addictions may be diseases, degenerative ones at that. The wisest practitioners know that addictive substances change brain chemistry in ways that persist long after a person stops taking drugs and that nosingle "medicine" cures any addiction. They are beginning to tease out the best means of helping all kinds of addicts by addressing the specific chemistry of their addiction and recovery, as well as acknowledging the need for mental and spiritual aid.

    While we remain a nation of people where, in the new century, an estimated 4 out of 10 can't get through a day without the "fix" of tobacco, caffeine, alcohol or cocaine, alternative treatments are becoming increasingly sophisticated. It is now believed, for example, that women's hormonal cycles probably influence the ability to stop smoking—those who quit during the first fourteen days following menstruation seem to experience less withdrawal and depression than those who quit after the 15th day. For some addicts, acupuncture helps and a few enlightened medical insurance companies are beginning to cover it. In Oregon, heroin addicts must try acupuncture before getting methadone.

    The "last frontier" in recognizing how addictive a society we are comes in the attention being paid to substance abuse among the elderly. It is now estimated that 2.5 million older adults have alcohol-related problems, often missed by physicians who mistake symptoms like falling or gastritis for problems associated with aging. Elderly females have less alcoholism as a group, but more depression and more problems from prescription drugs, as well as high rates of nicotine dependence. Since the nutritional situation of most elderly people is far from optimal, I'm convinced that the approaches outlined here could go a long way toward improving the situation.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

According to Dr. Robert Atkins, alcoholism is so tied in with carbohydrate metabolism that it is fair to say they are "genetically super-imposable." In other words, it is possible to understand alcoholism in terms of carbohydrate metabolism alone. This is an extremely radical assertion, but one that lends important insight into a problem that plagues our society. "I have seen families in which half of the members were alcoholics and the other half were sugarholics," says Dr. Atkins. "And you could switch them over. You could probably make alcoholics of the people that were addicted to sugar, and it is well known that when alcoholics go through a psychologically based program, and not a biochemically based program, they have a tendency to become sugar addicts." In fact, it is unusual for ex-alcoholics not to become sugar addicts. More commonly, individuals replace one addiction for the other. As Atkins notes: "Unless people get the clue that there is a connection between alcoholism and sugar addiction, they will just go from one to another and will not feel any better. The phrase `dry drunks' refers to what happens to alcoholics that start switching to sugar instead of getting on a diet in which all the simple sugars are eliminated."

    Clearly, in such situations nutritional awareness can make all the difference and Dr. Atkins considers it a necessary component of any successful alcoholism program: "Of course, nutritional support is also important. Minerals, such as chromium, zinc, and manganese, are all very important in regulating this sort of problem. Dr. Abram Hoffer also believes in the nutritional approach: "The general regimen that orthomolecular medicine uses for alcohol addiction (as with depression, schizophrenia, and a number of other mental disorders) is to pay careful attention to nutrition and the use of the right supplements.

    "The first order of business," Dr. Hoffer continues, "is to make sure that the individual's basic diet is optimal. We do that by trying to take away most of the additives in food he or she eats on a daily basis. It is impossible to get them all out, but we try to do the best we can. One of the best simple rules is to put the patient on a sugar-free diet, because almost all foods that contain sugar contain a large variety of other chemicals. By avoiding sugar you will cut out most additives, by about 80 or 90 percent. Since we are all individuals, and many of us have food allergies and can't tolerate huge quantifies of carbohydrates or protein, for example, each one of us has to develop a diet that is optimal for ourselves.

    "Second, we add in the supplements that are right for this particular individual. Many of us have been so deprived of these proper supplements over our lifetime that, even with a very good diet, we cannot regain our health. That's why we need supplements. This is where the treatment differs markedly from person to person (and depending upon whether someone is being treated for alcoholism, or a mental illness such as depression or schizophrenia). So while the dietary regimen is largely the same for all—avoid sugar and any foods that make you sick—supplements are determined on a case-by-case basis.

    "For alcoholism the basic treatment starts with Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill W., the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, first showed that when you added niacin to the treatment of alcoholism you got a major response that you did not see before. Today, there are a large number of very good alcoholism treatment programs in the United States, where they depend primarily on a combination of the type of nutrition that I have just referred to, the use of the right supplements, and the use of AA and other social aids to help these patients get well."

If you are taking a substance because you're depressed, you might have some form of brain imbalance or your depression may be physiologically induced—an underactive thyroid or a blood sugar imbalance. High blood sugar or low blood sugar manifests as depression. To get away from the chronic feeling of emptiness that frequently happens with depression, people start to drink, which takes away the feelings and gives them the sense of being in a never-never land. The same is true of many drugs. People take drugs to get a euphoria they wouldn't have achieved on their own or that they may have had but couldn't sustain. Once you get used to that, the quick and easy route is just to stick a needle in your arm or some form of narcotic up your nose or drink it or ingest it.

    None of this helps us to resolve the underlying conflict. Is the conflict biological in nature, is it psychological, or a combination? I have found that the best way of approaching this problem is not through exercise, not through deep breathing—if someone is really stressed out, getting them to breathe deeply is not going to work.

    It's like asking someone grossly overweight to go on a diet—five percent will comply. But if you get them to get into a systematic cleansing program, where they actually break all physical addictions, not just to sugar, but every other thing they could be allergic to, that seems to make for a major first step. Their energy comes back. Any form of addiction withdrawal creates a lack of energy, so when you substitute the energy they would be getting from the drug, and you give it to them naturally, through the body's own process of metabolism, they feel better.

    Then you start to rebuild the brain and the center of the brain with phosphatidyl serine, acelialcarnatine, phosphatidyl choline, and herbs that are known to have an impact, like fever few and green tea. You flood the body with flavonoids. This will not work for everyone, but those who follow this kind of program and juice, juice, juice—from four to six juices of freshly made organic vegetable juice a day—after six months to a year, I've seen about 80 percent of addicts cleared up, staying off it, and not coming back.

    I would add that if you have a problem drinker in your family, one of the things you can do is just try to see that they take some vitamins. Hopefully, they will. If not, just try to blend them into juices—orange juice or V-8 juice, whatever they are willing to drink.

    Alcohol frequently swells the brain if you have a sensitivity to it. Ever notice how some Asians sometimes manifest symptoms of dropdown drunkenness with just one small glass of wine? Studies show that they are having a cerebral allergy. So you need vitamin B1 and I'm talking about a lot. If you're an alcoholic you are looking at at least one hundred milligrams twice a day. Normally, I suggest ten milligrams of B1, fifteen of B2 and fifteen of B6, but not with an alcoholic. In fact they need the whole B complex at a higher level. Also, the essential fatty acids have been used extensively to help people who have problems with alcohol, generally one capsule of about 100 milligrams with a meal.

    There are certain amino acids that are helpful. Glutamine, not glutamic acid. I was in a health food store two days ago—I had stopped off there on my way back from a lecture to get a glass of juice—and I heard someone ask, "What do I give my uncle who's got a problem with alcohol?" The salesperson said, "Give him glutamic acid." I turned around and said, "I'm sorry, it's glutamine and you also want thiamine." If you take glutamine with vitamin B6 on an empty stomach—and it's best to take it on an empty stomach—along with thiamine and vitamin B6, it will affect the brain.

    Magnesium is also important in brain detoxification. I've yet to see a person who drinks regularly, even beer, who is not deficient in magnesium. Very important for the adrenal gland is pantothenic acid, which is vitamin B5. The most important however is vitamin C, taken with quercetin, the bioflavonoid. The flavonoids are very powerful healing agents. They have antiviral properties and anti-yeast properties. They are great for people with candida, they are terrific for people with fatigue, people who have a problem with chronic infections, upper respiratory infections that don't go away, nasal infections. Ninety percent of the Vitamin C you take is not utilized unless you take the bioflavonoids with it. I take issue on this point with Linus Pauling, whom I greatly respect. I've yet to see where vitamin C taken by itself is utilized. You just don't get bio availability, where the tissue actually utilizes it. Generally, about two thousand milligrams of the bioflavonoids would be sufficient, but they are very powerful antioxidants also.

    Very important for brain functioning overall and helping the liver is lecithin because of its choline inositol. Generally, people who consume even moderate amounts of alcohol have "lipotropic factors," fat build up in their organs, including the liver. That adversely effects metabolism.

    You should also look at niacin or niacinamide, if you want to prevent the flush. Milk thistle weed helps repair damage to the liver and so does valerian root.

    So those are a few things I suggest if you have problems with alcohol in your family or if you want to have alcohol yourself, but don't want any of the adverse affects that might come from it.

This disease is a challenge to treat and The Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis, founded by Dr. Joan Matthews Larson, is doing something unique. Dr. Larson realized the need to "shift our focus from alcoholism as a psychological disorder to alcoholism as a physical disease that creates cravings, depression and unstable brain functioning. Otherwise, the alcohol is removed and people take the full brunt of the damage that has been done. No matter how much they talk about their resolve, 80 percent or more have relapsed by the end of the first year. One in four deaths of alcoholics who have had formal treatment is from suicide, usually within the first year after treatment."

    Dr. Larson went down a new road because that very thing happened in her family. She had a son in his teens. When her husband's father died of a heart attack, the boy got into a lot of drinking at school. He loved the euphoria. He loved drowning his sorrows in the alcohol and he had a tremendous tolerance, could drink most people under the table. But after three or four years, it was changing his brain's stability. He was becoming very depressed. Dr. Larson sought help for him and "he went into a traditional treatment in a hospital setting. Now this person, a kid, who had reached the stage of real emotional instability from the effects of heavy alcohol and some pot use, sat in groups and talked about the misery of his life. He came home from treatment and was home a very short time, a week or two, when he took his life."

    Dr. Larson's need to know what might have made a difference in her son's life lead to further study. Many researchers talked about the damage that alcohol inflicts on the brain and central nervous system—depression, mental confusion, anxiety and real cravings. She began to realize that there was no way that talk could change or repair the damage one iota. There had to be more.

    She began to look at the natural chemicals the brain uses that support life and sanity. In the beginning, she concentrated on just the B vitamins, to replace the obvious losses. As she became more sophisticated, she used the amino acids, especially glucosamine, an amino acid that will halt the cravings for alcohol. "If an alcoholic just opens the capsule and lets it dissolve under the tongue," she says, "it goes right across the blood brain barrier and shuts down the cravings for alcohol."

    Dr. Larson has evolved a detox formula that includes a number of well researched components, all natural chemicals, no toxic drugs:

    Amino acids: glutamine, tyrosine, which reloads the norepinephrine, a natural mood enhancer, an antidepressant neurotransmitter. She used to use tryptophan. ("This is the only country in the world where tryptophan is unavailable and that's a pity because there is a great depletion of serotonin by alcohol.") She uses a group of amino acids designed to reload the brain neurotransmitters, which are low from alcohol. The neurotransmitters are important because they create our moods, memory and our emotions.

    She does a lot of lab testing and matching of individuals with treatment. Depression, she believes can run in nationalities, like the Finnish people she sees in Minnesota, many of whom have been depressed since childhood and can't lift the depression no matter what they do. Galmanic acid is particularly useful for Scandinavians, Irish, Scots, and American Indians, all of whom seem to have less availability, less ability to get that across the brain into the prostaglandin. And the prostaglandin you want is such a antidepressant metabolite. It takes about seven days.

    A lot of calcium and magnesium. The wipe-out of magnesium in the brain causes delirium tremors in the alcoholic after as little as one drink. The loss leaves the nervous system jumpy and the brain distressed.

    A good multi vitamin-mineral supplement. Every one of the substances that we use are capsules because we long ago found out that alcoholics have very little ability to break down hard pressed pills. Their pancreatic enzymes are simply not there anymore. We give them some enzymes that have both the hydrochloric acid and the pancreatic enzymes.

    Melatonin, so that they can sleep.

    A substance called GABA gamma amino butyric acid, which is how the benzodiazepines like Librium and Valium work. They push GABA into the brain and block the re-uptake. By taking GABA, you can reload those neurotransmitters and the firing mechanism is usually fine because of the wipe-out from the drugs and the alcohol.

    People who have high histamine have minds that race, don't sleep well, need a small amount of sleep, are compulsive and driven. A lot of times, they are heavy two fisted drinkers. In order to intercept that raciness, we give them methionine; that will block the histamine. Many marijuana users tend to be more high histamine and they love the interruption of all of that activity. It mellows them out. Marijuana does block histamine. It blocks it so well that a person who has used marijuana a long time can lose their zest for life. Their histamine levels are extremely low. Histamine fires all of the neurotransmitters in the brain. So loading them up is one thing but getting them to fire is another. To reload histamine, to raise those levels you use B3, B12, folic acid and histidine. Within weeks, the marijuana user is back to feeling normal again.

    Alcoholics say they have been anxious since childhood. They are really enamored of alcohol because it relieves the anxiety for awhile. If we don't relieve the anxiety, they will go right back to drinking again. Often we find high tryptopyrols that are blocking the B6 and zinc and keeping them anxious. That can be totally reversed once it is identified with a urine sample and a lab test. One way to know if you might be a candidate is look at your fingernails. Are there little white dots on all your fingernails and can you remember the content of your dreams consistently? If the answer is, "Yes I've got white dots and no I don't remember my dreams," you need to be tested for phillyrea and have that corrected.

    Cocaine-addicted people and heroin addicts have lost certain key chemicals that we need to replace. The cocaine user and the crack cocaine user are firing off norepinephrine like the fourth of July. That's what creates that feeling they love that is so short- lived. Of course, the neurotransmitter has to be reloaded. That is done by taking large amounts of tyrosine. Also, D-phenylalanine which makes endorphins. Now this is not L-phenylalanine; this is D-phenylalanine and it will help replace what the cocaine user has depleted.

    At the Health Recovery Center, they put all of these necessary things into an IV.

    Dr. Gabriel Cousens has been trying to find out "why, in the year 2000, we have up to 15 million active alcoholics and why five billion tranquilizers are consumed each year and 450 million cups of coffee drunken each day." The answer is that "people's brains and minds are not working clearly, so they turn to drugs to feel okay. They have what I call addictive brains."

    Healing the biologically altered brain is the way to eliminate those addictive pressures that send us into sex addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, violence addiction and over eating. We must get our endorphins and neurotransmitters back to normal levels.

    Dr. Cousens begins with a familiar program: "detox people, get them on a live food vegetarian diet, see if there are endocrine imbalances, hypoglycemia, hyperthyroid problems. The drugs they have been on—anti-hypertenses, anti-inflammatories, birth control pills, have altered the brain's physiology.

    "I study the pH of a person's blood. The brain seems to work at a certain pH, which is 7.46, where it has optimal function. This research was done by Dr. Watson in the 1950s. He discovered that people could have anxiety, depression, paranoia and even schizophrenia, if their blood pH was not at the right level. In a study of over 300 people, he used proper diet to bring the brain pH back to normal and the symptoms went away. The diet is important, then, not just because it is life-force enhancing, but because it actually alters the pH and brings it back to a normal.

    "Once I have corrected all these things, I will give free amino acids and other nutrients and certain B vitamins to enhance the functioning of the brain biochemistry so that all the cells are working at their optimal state. I add meditation to calm the mind.

    "Lower neurotransmitters and endorphins are partially the result of drug abuse. More men than women abuse drugs—three times more—and up to 5 times more are alcohol abusers. Chronic alcoholics have about a third fewer endorphins working in their brains. Some of the genetic studies show that up to 69 percent of alcoholics are missing a third of the neurotransmitters in the dopamine center. Since dopamine has to do with the pleasure centers, if you are not feeling pleasure, then you have to do something to feel good, like drink or take drugs.

    "Cocaine and amphetamines significantly break down the dopamine receptor centers. Prozac can actually deplete the neuroreceptor centers. In the 1960s they used the phrase "better living through chemistry," but it does not work. In 1884, Freud discovered cocaine. It helped with his depression for three years, but after three years, it became an addictive problem. From the 1930s to the 1960s, up to 23 million people were taking amphetamines, about 80 percent of them women. It is a personality enhancing drug—people say `I feel better' and `I have more energy'—because it creates a hyper-manic state.

    "Prozac and drugs like it are stimulants; they create a hyper-manic state. People who take them pay a price because the drugs alter the brain even more. They are addicting. At first, everybody thought that this was the new panacea, but within a year or two, we began having Prozac survival groups. Some people did feel better—a hyper-manic state makes them feel more aggressive and gives them the competitive edge. They call Prozac a "selective serotonin enhancer," but it also stimulates the androgens systems, like amphetamines and cocaine do. It also depresses the dopamine receptive centers, which are connected to the pleasure centers.

    "These drugs affect the brain in ways that people do not understand. They affect the frontal lobes, which means impaired reason and impulse control, lack of ability to make future plans and for empathy. It is really important because the lack of empathy is partly connected to all the violence that Prozac seems to stimulate. At Columbine High School, at least one of the killers was on Prozac. When you don't have empathy to connect you to human beings, it's really easy to act out with violence.

    "Then it affects the limbic system, which is the emotional system, where it creates apathy and indifference. Also, the basoganglion, which is extremely important because that creates abnormal movements, this internal pressure to move around and be active.

    "Then it affects the temporal lobes, causing loss of short and long term memory and then parietal lobes and every part of their brain. There is a decrease in understanding and sensory perception and language and sense of self. In the cerebellum, there is loss of regulation of muscle tone and gate. In the hypothalamus, there is loss of temperature and appetite control. It also affects the pituitary gland, the thyroid, adrenals, and sex hormones and stress reactions.


Meet the Author

Nutritionist and natural-living advocate GARY NULL is one of America's leading health and fitness writers. The author of dozens of books and hundreds of medical articles, Null’s film documentaries on the politics of health have won awards around the world, and his daily and weekly radio broadcasts educate millions on nutrition-based approaches to wellness and disease prevention. 

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